Aspen just for the su­per-rich? Not any more

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

wait­ress, lo­cal news­pa­per re­porter, mas­sage ther­a­pist and ski in­struc­tor, her fu­ture changed when she met and mar­ried Jerry Mur­dock, a co-founder of In­sight Ven­ture Part­ners and an early in­vestor in Twit­ter. He’s one of 50 bil­lion­aires who, ac­cord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine, cur­rently live in or own prop­erty in the Aspen area.

Al­most ev­ery­one I met in Aspen is a vo­cif­er­ous fan of the well-tended town and its sur­round­ing area, but Mur­dock be­lieves lov­ing Aspen isn’t enough; she wants to make a place that works for ev­ery­body. “Mar­ry­ing Jerry means I now live in the most beau­ti­ful house, with peo­ple who work for me. But I know what it’s like to live in your car, work two jobs. There’s a lot of pres­sure on the peo­ple that this town re­lies on – the wait­resses, main­te­nance peo­ple, gar­den­ers, teach­ers – and I be­lieve we can make their lives bet­ter.”

Be­cause of strict hous­ing laws lim­it­ing de­vel­op­ment in the Rocky Moun­tains, and the sky-high prop­erty prices, many who work in the ser­vice in­dus­tries live an hour or two’s drive out of town.

Aspen City of Well­be­ing has launched 18 pro­grammes across the city, tak­ing in the ski com­pa­nies, city coun­cil, schools, prison and hospitals in Aspen and the sur­round­ing area. Work­ers are of­fered a range of classes, in­clud­ing yoga, con­scious breath­ing, med­i­ta­tion and nu­tri­tion, and all progress is tracked with the idea of be­ing able to spread a City of Well­be­ing tem­plate across other parts of the US.

Oc­to­ber 26 to 29 will see the sec­ond an­nual Lead with Love, a four-day gath­er­ing with some of the big­gest names in well-be­ing, yoga and spir­i­tu­al­ity in the US, in­clud­ing Deepak Cho­pra, yoga teach­ers Ed­die Stern and Ash­ley Turner and 20 oth­ers. The ul­ti­mate mind-body-spirit event, it will in­clude two “heartopen­ing” yoga classes per day, guided med­i­ta­tions, as well as cu­rated con­ver­sa­tions and work­shops. Prices range from $5,000 (£3,770) for an Hon­orary Love Ninja ticket (spon­sor­ship which also gets you din­ner with Cho­pra et al), to $899 (£680) for the full four days, to a small do­na­tion or even noth­ing for those who can­not af­ford to pay.

A sur­pris­ing num­ber of things are free in Aspen. Buses around the half-dozen ski fields and across to Snow­mass are com­pli­men­tary all year round, as are the dozens of bikes for loan. Many of the fes­ti­vals and gal­leries have free en­try, too; big bucks phi­lan­thropy is ev­i­dent all over the town. I went to a fan­tas­tic con­cert in a beau­ti­fully de­signed per­ma­nent tent struc­ture near the Aspen In­sti­tute. Aspen so­ci­ety was eat­ing a chic but healthy buf­fet din­ner and sip­ping on their or­ganic rosé be­fore fil­ing into the tent to see Earth Wind & Fire do­ing a flam­boy­ant set of Seven­ties clas­sics ( Boo­gie Won­der­land, Af­ter the Love Has Gone, Fan­tasy). The sides of the tent were open, and on ev­ery side sat tick­et­less lo­cals and tourists, eat­ing their own pic­nics and en­joy­ing the con­cert for free.

And, of course, the na­ture around Aspen is free. There are hik­ing trails lead­ing out from the town, such as the Rio Grande trail, run­ning be­side the Roar­ing Fork River, which fur­ther down­stream has stand-up pad­dle­board­ing and white­wa­ter raft­ing.

Take a tour out of town, though, and you’ll re­ally see the splen­dour of the re­gion. Ma­roon Bells is one of the most pho­tographed scenes in the US, moun­tain ranges re­flected in a serene lake. My favourite was Blaz­ing Ad­ven­ture’s jeep trip up Lark­spur Moun­tain Road, from the top of which we looked across to at least a dozen snow-capped (even in June) peaks of over 14,000 feet.

This is the view that the most fab­u­lously wealthy peo­ple are pay­ing tens of mil­lions to see from their hill­side homes. They may not be about to open their palaces to the peo­ple, but they have re­alised that it’s bet­ter to share re­spon­si­bil­ity for (and en­joy­ment of) this ex­traor­di­nar­ily beau­ti­ful ecosys­tem in a way that can keep ev­ery­one happy.

For more in­for­ma­tion, see as­pen­cham­ber.org; gos­now­mass. com; as­penci­ty­ofwell­be­ing.org Louise Chunn is the founder of find a ther­a­pist plat­form well­do­ing.org

Out­door yoga in the moun­tains, main; shop­ping in the town, left; ar­chi­tect Shigeru Ban’s stun­ning Aspen Art Mu­seum, above

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